Can bees have heart attacks?

Heart attacks and other heart diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women, regardless of race. In fact, one person can suffer from a heart attack every 40 seconds in the US. So, it is easy to assume that if you have a heart, it should be possible that you can also experience a heart attack – well, not precisely [1]

This may be true for humans, but it may not hold its ground for other species, like bees, primarily because of the differences in the construction of their circulatory or cardiovascular systems.

Heart attacks are not possibly occurring in bees and other types of insects [2]. A heart attack or myocardial infarction happens if some parts of the heart muscle do not have enough oxygen-filled blood supply. However, since a bee’s heart supplies hemolymph instead of blood and does not have blood vessels like arteries and veins in its open circulatory system, blockage of the nutrients path is less likely to happen. To have a heart attack, you need a heart and blood vessels. 

Let us learn more about the bee’s heart, the differences between the human and bee circulatory systems, and the possibility or impossibility of a heart attack.

bees landing on a piece of cloth

What is a heart attack?

Before we can fully understand whether a bee can have heart attacks, it is essential to know what a heart attack is, how it occurs, and what happens if you suffer from it. Then, we can compare the technicalities to identify whether heart attacks are really possible to occur in insects like bees.

In the medical field, heart attacks are also called a myocardial infarction. This happens if the blood that carries oxygen is not supplied sufficiently or is totally blocked going to other heart muscles. This is commonly due to a blockage in the coronary arteries that is caused by fats or cholesterol deposits. 

In particular, heart attacks are also extremely common and happen to more than 800,000 Americans every year [3], and are proven to be deadly, so immediate action is necessary to avoid prolonged damage or death.

If you’d like to learn more about bees, you should also check out How long do drone bees live?

Understanding the differences in the circulatory system between the bees and humans

beekeeper harvesting honey

The human and bee circulatory systems (which contain the heart) are very different. Humans have a closed circulatory system, where the oxygen-filled blood is pumped by the heart and is guided by blood vessels, like the arteries and veins, to other parts of the body.

On the other hand, bees have an open circulatory system. This means that they don’t have blood vessels. Instead, their blood (also called hemolymph) travels freely along their body cavity. Their hearts are also different because the bee’s heart is similar to a long tube carrying the hemolymph from their abdomen (dorsal heart) to the thorax, into their head, and back again.

Another significant difference that is one of the considerations for heart attacks is what the blood transports. For humans, the blood contains oxygen, while the bee’s hemolymph does not. The bees have another organ that is in charge of transporting oxygen throughout their body, which is the trachea.

If you’d like to learn more about the bee’s body, you should click here, to learn whether or not bees have lungs

Can bees have heart attacks?

beekeeper taking out beehive

We laid down the initial considerations for understanding whether bees can have a heart attack. Let us now look at why it is understandable to ask if bees can also suffer a similar fate as humans in terms of the deadly disease of a heart attack.

Bees are incredibly hard-working insects, particularly females. They travel up to four miles from their hives to collect pollen and nectar that they will use to feed the colony and also to create delicious honey. 

Since they can cover a lot of ground when traveling from the hive to the foraging sites, then their hearts must be working incredibly as hard as them. Their lifespan is also very short, only four to six weeks, and they can also die from other sources. But is a heart attack one of them?

Matan Shelomi [4], an Associate Professor of Entomology at the National Taiwan University, said that since bees, like most insects, have no blood vessels leading to the heart muscle that can be blocked by fat and cholesterol, then a heart attack in insects is not possible. 

During a heart attack, the blood flow is severely impeded and even blocked, which cuts the blood supply and causes the heart muscle to die, then the heart stops. We already established that insects don’t have arteries. Therefore, a heart attack is only possible if a heart and blood vessels (arteries) exist. 

Shelomi also stated that the closest thing for a bee to have a heart attack is if something externally blocks the trachea leading to the heart muscle. But in terms of any recorded instances when an insect suffers from a heart attack, there is none.

To expand your knowledge about bees, you should also take a look at Do bees have teeth? and Are bees active at night?


Heart attacks or myocardial infarction are among the most common and deadliest diseases for Americans, killing thousands. So, it is only natural to ask whether heart attacks are possible for insects like bees.

Technically, heart attacks happen when the blood supply to the heart muscle is severely reduced or even blocked by fat and cholesterol deposits in the coronary artery, which causes the heart to die. This means that for a heart attack to occur, there must be a heart and blood vessels present. 

However, while bees have a heart that resembles a tube that transports their hemolymph (bee blood) throughout their body, they don’t have blood vessels. The absence of one common criterion for a heart attack concludes that bees cannot have a heart attack.


[1] – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Heart Diseases, 

[2] – University of California – Agriculture and Natural Resources – “Can bees have heart attacks?” 

[3] – National Heart, Lungs, and Blood Institute – “What is a Heart Attack?” 

[4] – LinkedIn – Matan Shalomi, 

[5] – Mayo Clinic – “Heart Attack”